Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Moments of Musical Peace in Midst of Whatever in Paris

April 27, 2015

Oasis 244

Oasis 244

PARIS – Maybe I should call this a gibberish post. The fact is, since returning from my last two-week trip to China and Bahrain I have been spending my vacation in Paris doing catch-up work to do with the office, family life and other things uninteresting to this blog. Still, I did managed to find an island of peace at John Redford and Stephen Saxo’s musical night at the Oasis 244, which is their weekly, Friday night gig where they kind of open the stage to musician friends and others who happen to drop by, if they feel like it.

The Oasis was its usual oasis of peace in not exactly one of the best neighborhoods of Paris, near the Stalingrad and Jaures metro stations. A truly laid-back evening, and unfortunately with all I have been doing, I didn’t have the time to charge my Zoom Q3 recording device’s batteries. So I got only limited video footage of a fun night.

And then a nice laid-back concert at the Connetable

From there, I got another nice interlude from the work at a show put on by a couple of friends, Nick Buxton and his wife Stephanie LB, both of whom have their own soft-touch acoustic-vocal thing going at the Connetable, a neat venue in the Marais with a bar and restaurant on the ground and first floors, and a cave music room underground, in a classic vaulted ceiling room of Paris.

I’m writing this thing so quickly that my syntax is taking a walk. But I desperately wanted to get a few words and videos in here before it got too late to do so. Nick Buxton, by the way, is the owner of the famous Basement studios in Paris, and when he and Stephanie are not playing the kind of touching and sensitive acoustic music they did at the Connetable, they are rocking hard and strong in their various rock combos.

Anyway, that’s about all I can get in here before I’m off to my next bit of work for the office, family and whatever! Back soon, hoping to do a ton of open mics in the coming week….

Pizza Box Drum Jam at the Oasis – a Little Borderline

March 7, 2015

Oasis 244

Oasis 244

PARIS – It was nearly midnight at the Oasis 244 in Paris again last night when I arrived, so much too late to profit by a full night of listening to John Redford and Stephen Saxo playing their stuff for the customers at this very cool and laid back little bar near the Stalingrad metro. It was too late to have much of any kind of amplification, so vocals and certain guitar bits suffered. But I sure did not suffer while listening to and playing with several old and new acquaintances.

Especially meeting up and hearing Wayne Standley playing again. I wrote about Wayne extensively during the Ptit Bonheur la Chance and Tireuse days. But since that venue has ceased to run its open mic, I’ve not seen Wayne playing anywhere. Wayne is a longtime American expat in Paris who has played music all his life here, but maintained a bona fide American country and rock sound. So true and real. And last night Andy Bone joined him on lead guitar and it sounded like we were in the middle of the American midwest somewhere….

Then I got to go up behind the mic – that did not work – and sing a few songs. And when it was time to do my song Borderline, David Hummel leapt into action and provided a fabulous jamming rendition as he took to one of his favorite instruments: A cardboard pizza box that had contained last night’s dinner. David used that for percussion, using his drum brushes to batter the box in the rhythms of Borderline. A fabulous little jam that left me feeling great about the 20 minutes I spent on the wonderful little warm stage of the Oasis 244. Andy Bone filmed it, so catch the video – be aware the mic barely worked, thanks to complaining neighbors.

The pizza box, it turns out, is a fabulous percussion instrument in acoustic jam sessions in bars where you can’t make much noise!

A Brief Stop-In at the Oasis

February 14, 2015

Oasis 244

Oasis 244

PARIS – I guess and oasis is really a drinking spot where you’re meant to stop for a brief moment on a long walk through the desert. That’s how I could describe my visit last night at the Oasis 244 in Paris, where I had such a great Friday night last week at the weekly gig of John Redford, Stephen Saxo and friends.

I arrived very late last night, so did not get to hear that much of the music, not get to see that much of the vibe. But from all I could see and hear, it seemed like it was as great as usual. And I got to play twice – once solo and with cajon, and another time with an electric guitar accompaniment – even at that relatively late arrival hour. So the brief visit was all I could hope for at the Oasis 244. Only one short video to show for it, though:

The Oasis 244 Comes Alive, in Paris

February 7, 2015

Oasis 244

Oasis 244

PARIS – A few months ago, John Redford and Stephen Saxo, two expatriate musicians in Paris started playing a regular Friday night gig at a small bar in Paris, which is located in equal distance between the Stalingrad and Jaures metro stations. As far as I remember, they had immediately from the start opened the stage, advertising the evening as John Redford & Stephen Saxo and Special Guests, or “Friends” maybe sometimes. The evening started fairly slowly, but now it has turned into a fabulous, wild, wonderful atmosphere of an evening, much more of an open mic than a gig alone, if last night was anything to go by.

Actually, I had played as a special guest at this bar – called the Oasis 244 – with Stephen and John a few weeks ago, and it was already a lot of fun. Then I got involved in other things reported on this blog and did not return to the Oasis 244 for weeks, maybe even more than a month.

I returned last night to find the Oasis 244 full of guests, both regular clients, people there for the music, and musicians. Many of the musicians were people I see around town at the other open mics, at gigs, etc., all of whom have gravitated towards this great Friday night musical moment.

Like all great venues, one of the main things that makes the Oasis 244 work – aside from John and Stephen’s great music, openness and kindness – is that the guy who owns the place loves music, and has more than enough tolerance for letting the musicians play as much as possible before he calls it quits for the benefit of the neighbors.

Last night I got to play six or seven songs, had Stephen on the sax and then David on the cajon. Amazing night.

Check it out!

Bombarding the Bombardier and Midnight at the Oasis

December 13, 2014

Open Mic at Bombardier Paris

Open Mic at Bombardier Paris

PARIS – I finally got a real chance to attend and play at the new Bombardier open mic in Paris on the Place du Pantheon on Thursday. I mentioned it in a previous post, but that night was not the right one to go into a loud, raucous pub environment where there is often little interest by the clients in listening, and lots of interest in talking. In the end, on Thursday night, I didn’t care who listened, I just wanted to sing.

So it was that I went to the Bombardier, a cozy student pub in the middle of the Latin Quarter, and I sang a few songs, and several other people sang a few songs, and the crowd died out sufficiently at one point that there were even a majority of people listening. In fact, I am certain I will return to this open mic – run on Thursday by Brislee Adams, who also MCs the Tennessee on Mondays and the Café Oz Blanche on Tuesdays. It’s a good fun, relaxed environment, and the sound system was really fine to play on, even if the sound may not make it to the other side of the pub during the height of chatter. But that’s hardly unique to the Bombardier as far as the world’s open mics go.

And then to the Oasis 244 in Stalingrad for a Concert and a Bit More Playing

Last night, Friday, I had the idea to go and hear my music friend John Redford perform in a new weekly gig he has at a small bar in the Stalingrad neighborhood, called the Oasis 244, just around the corner from the Point Ephemere and near the Quais de Seine, Metros Stalingrad and Jaures. John was playing his electric guitar and singing, and accompanying him on sax was Stephen Saxo, from Pittsburgh.

It was a really small bar, this small Oasis, and apparently it has an open jam session every second Thursday. The stage is small and cute, and John’s small sound system actually was not that bad. After John played his crooning melodies of cover songs and personal compositions, he opened the stage to anyone who wanted to play. He was careful to point out that it was not an open mic, but he wants to open the stage from time to time when it feels right.

I was thankful for that last night, since that meant I could do some songs with Stephen Saxo, and also try John’s Stratocaster. I later played on a classical guitar. But when midnight arrived, the bar owner said that was the end of the music, for fear of bothering the neighbors. So get there early if you plan to go. (John has no further gigs there until 2015.)

All in all, two fun and rewarding musical evenings in Paris now that I finally feel that I’m coming down to the ground and landing two or three weeks after the sixth worldwide open mic adventure….

Bonus video!!::

Brad’s Morning Exercise Music Rundown, 3d Installment: MS MR, Daft Punk, Bruce Springsteen, Bruce Springsteen, and John Redford

June 18, 2013

Sit Ups

Sit Ups

My third “Morning Exercise Rundown,” – the second of which ran on 28 April – will be much shorter than the first or the second…I think. I have more CDs to talk about – five this time – but while there may be more CDs than for the second installment, I feel as I begin that I have less to say about them. The main reason for that is that I can be pretty conclusive pretty quickly on all of them! Well, all except one….

All but one of the CDs – not the aforementioned came from my new source: As mentioned in my first post, the Lotus Formula One team is giving out CDs quite often now to journalists and any other takers and interested people in the paddock, as they have some kind of a sponsorship deal with Columbia Records. So at the last three races – Spain, Monaco and Canada I picked up the new crop. At the glitzy, glamorous Monaco Grand Prix the big deal was that Daft Punk had shown up for the race, and it was their new CD – surprise, surprise – that was being handed out. I’m talking about Random Access Memories, which has been busting the charts all over the place and selling like as if they were the latest whatever.

In fact, one of the things that I found interesting about this CD is how incredibly it sounds at once like something from the 1990s AND something from today. I’ve never been a Daft Punk fan, but I’ve never been against them either. But listening to this CD while doing my morning exercises was a good experience from the point of view of how it lends itself perfectly to the exercise needs and experience: There was no real need to listen to the warped vocals and the rhythm and the beat inspired me on to ever more rapid sit-ups. 😉 At the same time, I had heard some of the songs on the car radio already – as who hasn’t – such as “Get Lucky,” or “Lose Yourself to Dance.”

The CD, as everyone knows, has an amazing line up of contributing musicians as well, like Pharrell Williams, Paul Williams and Nile Rodgers – to say nothing of Julian Casablancas, Chilly Gonzales and Giorgio Moroder. Of course, this is a French band that I think must have invented that electronic voice manipulation thing not to sound really cool but to hide their French accented English. Whatever…. there are clearly some catchy, classic melodies and lyrics on this album, and there is little I can say about it except that Daft Punk is far from a spent force, and far from Daft….

If Bob Dylan can’t write songs like Bob Dylan anymore Bruce Springsteen certainly can still write like Bruce Springsteen….

bruceIn my last morning exercise music talk post I said this thing about how if Bob Dylan can’t write songs like Bob Dylan anymore then what chance do the rest of us have? Well, interestingly enough, inspiringly enough, this latest crop of morning exercise music consisted of the latest Springsteen album that was handed out at the Spanish Grand Prix, as well as the No. 1 classis Springsteen album, the best of them all, “Born to Run,” which came out in 1975 and that was handed out for reasons beyond my understanding at the Canadian Grand Prix. But I sought not to understand. I simply wanted to listen to the album again, so wonderful is it. But the experience of listening to Born to Run again and then listening to the latest effort of the 63-year-old-going-on-40, is monumental. I’m talking about “Wrecking Ball,” of course.

From the first song with its amazing, interesting rhythms to the title song and beyond, this album shows how Springsteen continues to find strong, original songs and music and has lost hardly anything of his vocal powers. I mean, the new album is just really vital and really Springsteen – of course, he has been inspired by dark times, and he seems to need and love that.

msmrBut the real clincher for me as to the strength and power of this rock classic – some of whose songs are on a level with Dylan, and most of which are entertaining – came to me when I listened to the final Columbia offering from Canada: MS MR’s first full album, “Secondhand Rapture.” The first time I listened to this American Indie band’s album I said, “Huh? Wait, is this on the same record label as the Springsteen and Dylan????” (Of course, there are only around three record companies that remain, so what the hell….) My first listening made me feel as if this new Indie band that barely existed three years ago and that has had a very rapid rise to public awareness was doing nothing but create elevator music.

Compare the melodies and vocal powers to those of Springsteen and I felt that some people can write great songs that we all end up having as the soundtracks to our lives – a cliché, yes – and other people write Musak. Maybe, in fact, that’s why one of their songs was used in a promotional video for Game of Thrones…. Not too much character to upstage the product…. But then… but then… since although I have no intention of being a music critic and these occasional posts are really just about my impressions of my morning exercise music, but since obviously I CANNOT AVOID being critical if I don’t like or understand something, I decided that I HAD to be fair to whatever I listen to. That meant not jumping to quick conclusions.

MSMR and All That Shit You Put Me Through

So THAT meant listening to MS MR again. In fact, I had not entirely made up my mind about the album anyway. I was immediately struck with how, like Daft Punk, even like Springsteen, this band MSMR did not entirely sound like today to me. It sounded like the 1980s/90s electro music. They have been compared to Florence and the Machine and Lana Del Rey. But for me the latter, at least, had catchier melodies. UNTIL… suddenly, on my second listen to the album one song in particular – as I searched for a potential hit to stick out of the wallpaper – jumped out at me for both its melody and its lyrics.

I stopped my exercises, began reading the lyrics, and later, after exercising, when it was time to eat breakfast, I listened again to that song. Today, tonight, I have listen yet again. I love the song, I think it is really catchy, it is different, it is now. I don’t know if it can ever be a big hit on the radio everywhere because the language is the kind that we use every day but that cannot be used in the mainstream media. Here are the wonderful lyrics of the chorus that we can all identify with:

I still think of you
And all the shit you put me through
And I know you were wrong
I still think of you
And all the shit you put me through
And I know now
I know you were wrong

A wonderful song, really moves, bounces, has great catchy melody and memorable, simple lyrics – called “Think of You.” I began to realize also that this apparently soft-voiced and subtle singer actually has a strong voice that she seems almost to be holding back with, but it is very effective. I’m talking about the MS of the duo, Lizzy Plapinger, the MR being the producer Max Hershenow.

So ANYWAY… MS MR is really quite interesting, even if the whole album does not stand out like a Springsteen – but such, I realized, is the price of something new, sometimes. It sometimes takes time to absorb its newness – having said that, I loved Born to Run the first time I heard it in the 70s.

Paris Expat John Redford’s First Effort

Last week when I hosted that open mic one of the singers who signed up was a guy I have seen play for a couple of years now regularly at the Paris open mics, mostly at the now defunct Ptit Bonheur la Chance. This was John Redford, who is from England and works in Paris as some kind of engineer. He plays music in his spare time, and just came out with his first CD of his own songs. So I bought a copy of it last week at the open mic, and decided that despite having heard him playing week after week for so long, that I would listen to him as part of my morning exercise routine. It was well worth it to hear how musician can sound different with a full-fledged – or even “partially fledged” – band, after you’ve heard them only with a guitar and vocals for so long. In total he used about five other musicians with drums, keyboards, bass, backing vocals and guitars. It also shows what you can do by recording in your own apartment – as he points out on the liner notes.

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